Are the UK winter floods linked to climate change?

The general public are being called to take part in an Oxford University research project to find out what role climate change played in the UK’s record-breaking wet winter.

The rainfall from December last year through to February resulted in the wettest winter ever recorded at the Radcliffe Meterological Station in Oxford. The deluge caused widespread flooding across southern England, affecting thousands of people and resulting in an estimated £1bn or more in damage.

The project weather@home, led by Professor Myles Allen, will reveal whether climate change made the extreme rainfall and resulting floods more likely to occur, or not. Anyone can use their home computer to run weather simulations and contribute results to the experiment.

One set of weather model simulations will represent ‘real world’ conditions and possible weather, while another set of will represent the weather in an imagined world where humans have not changed the composition of the atmosphere through greenhouse gas emissions. By comparing the number of extreme rainfall events in the two sets, researchers can work out if the risk of a wet winter has increased, decreased or been unaffected by human influence on climate.

The models have to be run many thousands of times to ensure that the estimated probability of extreme events is robust. That’s why the researchers are asking for the help of the general public who can download the computer software and run the experiment from home. The results should be available within a month and will be published as they come in.

In the video below Nathalie Schaller, a researcher based at the Environmental Change Institute, explains the science behind the project.

Read the Guardian article ‘Home computers to help scientists assess climate role in UK’s wet winter’

Follow Damian Carrington’s blog on the Guardian website which discusses the science and its implications

Visit the weather@home project website and contribute to the experiment

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